High noon for French haute gastronomy: France seeks foreign help to inspire its young chefs


Rate this post

From your mirepoix to your mise en place; from the Michelin Guide to the five mother sauces: French cuisine has long been held as the pinnacle of gastronomy. Some consider France to be home to the best food on the planet. 

For centuries, aspiring chefs from around the world have flocked to its cooking schools like Le Cordon Bleu in Paris to be trained to the high standards of French gastronomy. But now facing growing competition and criticism of having tired, unimaginative menus, President Emmanuel Macron’s government wants to send the country’s chefs abroad to learn from the rest of the world.

In a stunning blow to France’s hauteur, Minister for Business Olivia Grégoire announced plans to allow the country’s best talents to discover and bring back tricks of the trades in other countries. “[French] Gastronomy has been facing the rise of foreign gastronomy since the end of the 1990s and has found itself left behind by the performance and influence of other countries,” Grégoire admitted in a press conference.

At the Bocuse d’Or, the biennial world chef championship held in Lyon, French chefs have only won twice in the past 15 years – despite the home advantage. “It would be a mistake to rest on our laurels and we are going to reassert our pre-eminence,” Grégoire added.

“It’s a proven fact: our competitors have ambition and means and they are developing effective strategies to make their cuisines shine. It’s our turn to be ambitious, willing and armed for this competition on a world scale,” said Alain Ducasse, one of France’s most lauded chefs.

Could only the French make snails look this appetising?

A new resolution by the French government that would require restaurants to reveal how much food is cooked in-house is expected to reveal a damning half of the country’s restaurants are making fresh meals.

According to the two Michelin star chef Thierry Marx, only half out of 175,000 restaurants in France are serving homemade food. “Many of them suffer because they are compared in terms of price to others who use ready to eat meals, or even ultra-processed food without telling their customers,” he explained.

Looking across the pond, the French are even considering asking Britain for advice on how to rescue their stagnating cuisine. Despite a poll last month showing the French ranked British food as the worst, the Minister of the Economy and Finance rates its mixology talents.

“If the best in cocktails are in the United Kingdom, then our young apprentices must be able to go there for five months to perfect their skills,” said Bruno Le Maire.

The French are looking all across Europe for advice. In the same time that they have had dwindled success at the Bocuse d’Or, Denmark and Norway have taken home five of the eight potential top gongs.

Asparagus drenched in an appropriate amount of Hollandaise sauce

The government has allocated €1.5 million of public funding for the scheme which will send French chefs abroad, alongside the creation of a training centre for young talents and the creation of an institute of Haute Gastronomy.

Whether this is enough money to put France back at the top of the food pyramid remains to be seen, although the government also expects private funding to supplement the investment.

French gastronomy is still a huge part of the country’s soft power. A point not lost on the country which nominated The Taste of Things as its entry for Best International Feature Film at this year’s Oscars over Anatomy of a Fall.

While Anatomy of a Fall swept up awards – including the Cannes Palme D’Or – for its searing portrayal of the justice system, The Taste of Things was a glorious ride through the sights and smells of a French gourmet kitchen in the late 19th century. Starring Juliette Binoche and a decadently prepared Baked Alaska, it was a sumptuous watch, but it taking priority over the superior Anatomy of a Fall spoke volumes about the country’s pride in its cooking.

The French may hold their cuisine up as the best in the world, and when done right it can be sublime. But allowed to rest on its laurels, the nation risks their cuisine resembling a cold Hollandaise sauce – once luxuriously unctuous, now congealed slop.

Yorum yapın